Babies & Thyroid Problems

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Parents are usually shocked to discover that their baby has thyroid problems. Thyroid problems in babies are often elusive, with subtle or hidden symptoms. Congenital hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid problem in babies, and the condition occurs when a baby's thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormone for his body. The Texas Department of State Health Services states that one in every 4,000 babies is born with thyroid problems such as hypothyroidism.

Causes

  • The most common cause of thyroid problems in babies is the improper development of the thyroid gland during early pregnancy, when the thyroid develops at the base of the brain and is supposed to move towards the lower neck. The thyroid may not move to the correct position during pregnancy, which can in turn leave only a section of the thyroid. In other cases, there may not be a thyroid present at all.
    Less common causes of thyroid problems include the lack of stimulation in the pituitary gland or the inability of the the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones

Symptoms

  • babies that have thyroid problems may have symptoms that include jaundice or yellowing of the skin, or pale or blotchy skin that is very noticeable when the baby is undressed. Thyroid problems may also cause babies not to be interested in eating; they may fall asleep during feedings. Babies with thyroid problems can suffer from poor weight gain and slow growth, and will have poor circulation, with noticeably cold hands and feet, low blood pressure and slow heart rates. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, babies with thyroid problems may seem quiet, feel limp or floppy when picked up, sleep for long periods of time and be indifferent to their environment.

Testing

  • Every newborn baby is tested for thyroid problems within a few days after birth. The testing process involves taking a blood sample from the baby's heel, which is then sent for laboratory evaluation to determine the levels of thyroid hormone (T4) and TSH in the baby's blood.

Treatment

  • If your baby is diagnosed with thyroid problems, your pediatrician will refer you to a pediatric endocrinologist who specializes in treating babies for thyroid problems. Treatment for babies with thyroid problems usually involves daily replacement doses of synthetic thyroid hormone tablets, also referred to as sodium levothyroxine or L-thyroxine, which acts exactly like the thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland.

Considerations

  • Babies with thyroid problems will have to take thyroid hormone replacement medication for the rest of their lives. Thyroid hormone replacement is vital during the first two years of life for proper brain development. Thyroid hormone replacement will also ensure that the baby's bodily functions continue to work on a normal basis.

Misconceptions

  • The Texas Department of State Health Services states that thyroid problems in babies "are permanent and therefore it is a condition that they will not eventually grow out of." Even though thyroid problems are permanent, babies with thyroid problems who continue life-long thyroid hormone replacement therapy are able to grow up and lead normal lives.

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References

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